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Excursions - NASA Tour

From “Return to Flight” to “Return to the Moon”
change after 20 years of SpaceEducation
by
Ralf Heckel

Fotos Cosmas Tagebuch  Rovernauts Startberichte  Raumfahrt Concret  Werner-Heisenberg-Gymnasium

sts121artemisvideoLast night at 1:47 am, Artemis 1, the brightest rocket of all time, was launched towards the moon. I was there with a handful of students from 3 continents. They are all currently struggling for words and trying to write down their experiences. It's not easy at all. It was her first experience of launching a giant rocket. The whole year 2022 on standby, two transatlantic travels, a cancelled attempt by hurricane Ian, presentations at the 37th German Space Day, sleepless nights after a long flight and finishing homework, jet lag and excitement put everyone in a trance that feels like being on a submarine.

But it all goes back 20 years. Exactly 20 years ago in the autumn, Professor Dr. von Puttkamer said: "I'm in Leipzig right now and if you want, we can meet up." Freshly in love with Yvonne, we came to the Hotel Fürstenhof and listened to what the professor had to say. “We will soon be expanding the ISS and for that we need young people, because one day we want to go back to the moon. If you do well and stick to that goal, I promise you'll be there with a new generation of space explorers.” At the time, that sounded too fantastic to be true. Nevertheless, it should take 20 years until this promise should come true in return for solid youth work around the world.

Step by step we implemented the professor's ideas until he opened doors at NASA in return. The first launch window opened three years later with an invitation to the shuttle launch at Cape Canaveral. "Return to Flight" was the name of the flight of the Discovery, which was the first space shuttle to resume flight operations after the Columbia disaster. Pilot Eileen Collins heralded the space age of women. Since then, the ISS space station has been expanded and 10 years ago the last of the proud swans flew. We saw 3 launches and one landing, mostly with students. We provided the first international team at the NASA Rover Challenge, won prizes and inspired thousands of students with complex trips around the world, from which hundreds of teams emerged. Everything always with the words of the professor: "You have to be trail blazers and take responsibility for what follows!" That's how it happened until the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, with the 3rd world champion title. Our strongest participants are the girls. They sit in the front of the pilot's seat, not only in the Roverchallenge.

But the female astronauts moved on board the ISS, the first woman on the moon is being discussed and “Helga”, an astronaut dummy from Germany, is now sitting in the Orion capsule. Astronaut Pamela Melroy , with whom we shared the same hotel in 2005, is now NASA's deputy administrator. That's why today more girls than boys are with me at Banana Creek, watching the rocket launch and listening to the instructions of the first flight director in history, Ms. Charlie Blackwell-Thompson.



campusobservatoryIn the last 20 years and especially between these two starts, Yvonne and I have not only built a campus that is created exactly for this Artemis generation (young people in contrast to the Apollo generation, which is now of retirement age), but also have our own 3 children brought another 300 international students on this path. 2 of them are with us today. There are 2 young women, both engineers. One, Valeria (24), is now an engineer at Tesla and works on the Cybertruck. The other, Sakurako (27), is now a pilot and engineer. She is aiming for an astronaut career with her home agency JAXA. Others have become aerospace engineers, entrepreneurs, managers, teachers or good craftsmen. Jasleen from India now works at Boeing in Houston. Firine, the pilot of our NASA Rover Challenge winning team of 2019 in the 50th year of the Apollo 11, has been studying aerospace engineering at TU Delft since this year.

ilafreeNow that the pandemic has passed, we are starting with a whole new generation. That's why Cosma (15) and Arthur (17) are there as representatives of the high schools who can consciously pass on their experiences. Both did brilliantly, last week on the 37th Space Day, before NASA Associated Administrator of the Artemis program, James Free. We are now planning several world tours with them through numerous schools through 2026 as part of our own ambassador program similar to Work & Travel for SpaceExploration. There are partners in 30 countries on our list to work through. The smallest representatives are Jesco (8) and Valencia (11). They pass on their experiences in a playful way in primary and secondary schools.

These are all results that you don't have to hide from, no matter how rocky this path was and no matter how many setbacks there were. They are the result of solid work that must not be messed with. And as with all successful endeavors, ours also have their envious people. But more on that later. I see this as a distinguishing feature and award from people who capitulate to the need to "take the difficult path". Our former host from 2005, then-astronaut and administrator of US manned space travel, Bill Ready, is still our advisor behind the scenes today.

But now our small group of four is sitting in the Beachside Hotel in Cocoa Beach and writing down the experiences of yesterday. I'm trying it too.

Web link: Experience report from 2005 "Return to Flight", created at the Radisson Cocoa Beach at the time:


 

 
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